Updates: An Incomplete List of Worthwhile Classic Science Fiction Blogs/Resources

I love the idea of a community of science fiction reviewers — so I’ve put together a list of a handful of book review blogs focused on classic/slightly more esoteric science fiction.  Obviously there are plenty of great blogs I’ve omitted that have reviews of new releases or only occasional vintage science fiction….  Or, blogs that refrain from reviews of vintage science fiction unless participating in certain reading challenges….

Please visit them, comment on their reviews, and browse through their back catalogues.

1] Speculiction….: An under visited /commented on blog with quality book reviews of classic science fiction — however, the reviewer, Jesse, is limited by the lack of older science fiction available to him in Poland.  I especially enjoyed his reviews of Ballard’s “beautifully strange enigma” that is The Crystal World (1966) and of course, my favorite science fiction novel of all time, John Brunner’s magisterial Stand on Zanzibar (1968).  An index of his reviews can be found here.  He also has a good mix of newer science fiction reviews as well.

2] The PorPor Books Blog: SF and Fantasy Books 1968-1988: I find this blog interesting predominately for his book reviews which appear about once a week — the tend to be more on the esoteric end, hence my fascination — who has even heard of Stanley Schmidt’s Newton and the Quasi-Apple (1975)? In between are numerous posts of scanned in sci-fi magazines (especially of the Heavy Metal type) etc of the 70s/80s which, personally, are not as interesting.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a helpful index to browse the book reviews/authors.

3] SF Mistressworks: A BAFSA nominated collating blog of reviews of novels by female science fiction authors pre-2000 run by Ian Sales at It Doesn’t Have to Be Right.  The reviews by Sales himself and Nic Clarke are especially worthwhile.  I’ve found countless novels/authors as a result.  Also, if you’ve reviewed sci-fi novels by female authors pre-2000 you should go ahead and submit them because some months are relatively sparse.

4] Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature: Run by my friend 2theD — whenever he comes to the US he stocks up on suitcases of used science fiction.  I prefer his reviews of older science fiction (but, that’s obvious considering my interests) — for a taste, his review of Bob Shaw’s One Million Tomorrows (1971) and Brian W. Aldiss’ Greybeard (1964).  We disagree frequently — he’s not a fan of Malzberg or Russ — but the reviews are always worth reading.  Considering the work he puts into them he deserves more comments!  And, who can’t help but promote a champion of John Brunner’s greatness?  Here’s a handy INDEX to his reviews.

5] AQ’s Reviews: Nice long, thought-out, and intriguing reviews of a mix of new and old science fiction.  For example, Vance’s Big Planet (1957), Hal Clement’s Needle (1950), etc….   And there’s an INDEX.

6] Jennre: A Semi-guided Tour for the SF-curious: A criminally underread blog of classic (predominately 40s-60s) science fiction short stories….  Generally more a thematic resource than review proper although the author’s opinion on a short story/author is often very apparent.  Here’s a nice list of useful sf-resources.  And an example of the type of entry — Brian Aldiss’ short story ‘Judas Danced’ (1958).

7] Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, & Creased: Almost all the sci-fi reviews are of vintage science fiction!  There are interspersed reviews of pulp mysteries and occasional art posts etc.  Recent reviews include James Blish’s Midsummer Century (1972) and Wilson Tucker’s The Long Loud Silence (1952).  And a review index

8] MPorcius Fiction Log: A substantial portion of his reviews are of classic SF.  Highly recommended blog — tends to dabble in the more esoteric, like myself.

Thanks for all your work and keep the reviews coming!

32 Replies to “Updates: An Incomplete List of Worthwhile Classic Science Fiction Blogs/Resources”

  1. Your favorite SF of all time is Stand on Zanzibar? Yes, I love it too, but not all reviews are complimentary. One thing for certain though, books like that are not published much these days.

    1. Yes, my favorite — well the non-complimentary reviews are generally people who can’t tolerate a novel low on plot or hate experimentation on sci-fi — so, they are relatively easy to dismiss….

      1. I’d really would like to read it,but at about or over 600 pages,it is rather long,and I don’t like sf books usually much longer than 300 pages.Of those I finished,I couldn’t really get on with “Dune”,another favourite of your’s,which isn’t nearly as long as this,not to mention “Dhalgren”,which is longer than both of them.Also,John Crowley’s “Little Big” wasn’t bad,but was complex,which made it tedious at it’s length.You seem to like really long books.

        The only John Brunner novel I tried to read,was “Telepathist”,a far shorter one than SOZ,but couldn’t get very far into it.

      2. If you don’t enjoy Brunner’s work, well, that’s a completely different thing. But, most afficianados of the genre should get around to reading The Sheep Look Up (it’s shorter!), The Jagged Orbit, and Stand on Zanzibar — eventually…

  2. Easy to dismiss? I dunno. The book was written in a different age. But if you recast it in today’s terms, and with social media so relevant, bad reviews can have an impact. In the case of SOZ, negative reviews do signal its commercial aspects (problems?). It’s not for everyone. However, on an artistic basis I would think different reviews clearly segregate those who can appreciate it’s intention (high concept, experimentation, etc.), from those who can’t/won’t … whatever.

    1. Ah, I meant I dismiss the reviews… I would only recommend the novel to people interested in more inventive science fiction or those obsessed with the classics. But it was recently re-printed so there is enough interest out there.

      1. While it is high concept, experimental, etc., it’s really a book that you should be able to reccomend widely – I agree with Josh Wimmer that SOZ has many features that people like in Neal Stephenson’s work, Crytonomicon in particular.

  3. Look ma, I’m on TV!

    For the rest of the blogs, I actively follow around half of them. Always glad to see more promotion for SF Mistressworks since it’s a great collective that leads to a dozen other bloggers; 2theD’s Potpourri site is criminally under-commented on, considering the amount of awesome reviews; and I read the PorPor Books Blog even though our opinion disagrees about half the time. The rest I’m going to start following.

    1. Yes, I disagree with PorPor Books a lot as well — I tend to think his ratings are rather low…. And, he has an obsession with camp…. But still, I love reading about sci-fi I’ve never heard of and I’m glad someone is reviewing them.

      1. I agree, a bit too much camp and low, low ratings. Then again my rating style tends to look like a bell curve, which is why I eschewed them—“Oh look, yet another three-star book review from the Admiral.”

    1. Definitely useful, thanks very much – I’m a regular reader of 4 of the 7, but I’m always looking for more to satisfy my craving for discussions of classic SF.

  4. Fist-bump. Too bad I haven’t posted in three weeks. I’ve hardly picked up a book in that whole time. Busy working on my graduate thesis, which will take three more weeks out of my life and add numerous more grey hairs to my scalp.

    1. Żołwik! (That’s a Polish fist-bump!) Thanks for the shout out, Joachim, but perhaps even better, the links to the other sites. 2theD I visit regularly and Jennre I use as reference, but the others were unknown. The few reviews I read on SFMistressworks were very informative. I only wish they had an index… 🙂

      1. You’re welcome Jesse. I really enjoy Jennre… I find it somewhat difficult to navigate though — wish there was an index of the anthologies/stories…. Ah indexes, they are so useful.

      2. My apologies to those at SFMistressworks. It appears my browser settings were preventing me from seeing the index where expected. (It was pushed to the bottom.) Problem solved. I now have an overview of the reviews, to which I feel ashamed for knowing so few authors…

  5. Hi Joachim–the WP reader sent me this link (it’s scary how passing comments in blog entries apparently reveal so much to search engines!). My main writing on WP is about suburban homesteading, technology and the environment so…of course, classic SF! Anyways, just unpacked some boxes full of my SF/fantasy collection and you’ve inspired me to re-peruse (in addition to Varley, Gibson and Pohl already tackled), Tanith Lee, Piers Anthony, CJ Cherryh with possibly a little Fred Saberhagen thrown in. Will enjoy browsing here, too. Ah, machine-generated serendipity!

    1. Thanks for visiting. I enjoy Pohl… But the others are more 80s authors and not my cup of tea (well, besides Anthony). I have read most of Cherryh’s masterpieces and Gibson etc…. But, most of those are too modern for me.

      I do want to read Piers Anthony’s late 60s and 70s works eventually — we’ll see. A la Cthon (1967), Phthor (1975), and perhaps Macroscope (1969)… Have you read any of those?

  6. Macroscope and Cthon possibly…but so many years ago that I don’t remember & I don’t have copies any more so not sure. My oldest SF book dates to the 70’s but now you got me thinking. Thx for the tips!

  7. I will certainly attempt to read “Stand on Zanzibar” if I can get a libraby copy.At present,I don’t want to pay out for a book I probably won’t read,but will consider it.As I said,as often as not,I usually haven’t liked sf novels I’ve read of more than the normal maxmum length of up to 320 pages.I have to be careful.One of the few exceptions,was George Martin’s “Ferve Dream”,at 390 pages,but it was probably a book that particularly appealed to me,and combined a number of different genres with sf tropes.

    Remember,I’ve read books you haven’t,like the one above,that I’ve recommended,and found particularly excellent.It’s not been unusual for me to find sf books that I don’t like,or even if I did,I don’t now.The chances are,I won’t.

    “Afficinardos of the genre”.I have to say that I haven’t thought of science fiction as an actual genre for a very long time now.As I’ve said,it’s very difficult to define science fiction.Before the advent of the first sf paperbacks,there was no clear line between the mainstream and science fiction,and it only existed in the so called “pulp magazines”.Anything that was science or speculative fiction in book form,would have been published without the label,and probably overlapped with other books.

    The authors published within it,are a very hetrogeneous group.The differences between them as you know,is quite significant.To try and make a definition of sf by taking account of them together,is unscientific in literary terms.Yes alright,there’s certainly similair tropes between books,but to make a single definition of sf but counting them all,is another matter I think.This is why I prefer to call much of it speculative fiction

    As for being an afficinardo of the genre,well I wouldn’t actually call myself one for the same reasons that I gave above.Like you of course,I haven’t only read what you would term science fiction within the walls of the genre.Without mentioning any names,it has appeared without self conscious reasoning outside of the genre’s shores,and there is of course an overlapping of both between mainstream and genre sf books.Here,any clarity between what is science fiction and what isn’t,becomes rather bleary I think,and much of which is published within genre sf imitates what’s found within general literature and vice versa.Needless to say,I don’t necessarily like everything within the written sf genre,anymore than I do outside it,and I know you do too.I read within the sf genre for the gems within,not just as an sf fan,and is often better than those published outside it.This includes Vonnegut and Ballard,who were both weened in the sf genre before being lifted into mainstream literature,and would be particularly difficult to define as science fiction authors therefore.I prefer to avoid anything gerneric.There are really only good and bad books.

    You probably won’t agree with what I said,but I have to be honest.Being an afficinardo of sf will mean that I suppose that they will work their way through Wells,Asimov,Heinlein,Herbert and Harrison,but at least some of these I know you don’t care for,that proves a point.I probably will get hold of some copy of SOZ however,and will welcome it.

    1. Richard, you are missing my point — I am not trying to goad you into reading Stand on Zanzibar or defending your reading habits! Rather, I am pointing out that not reading a book because it is long sounds rather silly! 😉

      And, I was attempting point out that Brunner wrote shorter works worth reading as well — The Shockwave Rider, The Sheep Look Up, and The Jagged Orbit (although, that’s a bit long but shorter than Stand).

      1. Ok Joachim my friend,don’t worry.I’ve misled you ,not for the first time I think!I was trying to say,that I don’t always want to pay for books I feel dubious about.I don’t not want to read them just because the’re long.If I see one in my library,I’ll pick it up.Generally I have had bad reading experiences with very long books,and always like to finish the ones I pay for,otherwise it seems a waste of money.I have Ian McDonald’s tome “Brazil”,that I bought nearly six years ago,still unread at home,and because I’ve tried to read it twice,I fear it will remain so!

        Also at present,there’s so many other books I want to read,and don’t feel I should make priority of it.I was surprised it was your favourite novel,as I thought Barry Malzberg was your favourite author,and would have chose one of his.

        Anyway,it gave me a chance to clarify what makes science or speculative fiction special for me.I know your views are somewhat different to mine.

        Ok?

      2. Ah, Malzberg is only a recent obsession — I’ve read the vast majority (20 odd) of Brunner’s good and bad (lots of pulp) novels (yes, he wrote tons of the latter).

        I too read a vast variety of works inside/outside genre + scholarly work etc. I tend not to think much about lengthy — multi-volume series sort of dissuade me but I read tons of those in the past.

      3. Did you read “Telepathist”? The only short story of Brunner’s I’ve read,was in “Dangerous Visions”.As I recall,I didn’t find it bad,but don’t remember what it was about.

        I don’t like series,unless they form a whole work or novel,like Gene Wolfe’s tetralogy,”Book of the New Sun”.

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